Safety first for winter wades
We were drifting a shallow flat last week and catching both trout and redfish at a surprisingly steady pace when my client asked, “When do you start wade fishing?” January through March are my favorite months, but in truth I leave the confines of a comfortable boat only because wading is the most effective approach to catching the largest trout.
The reason we weren’t wading at the time was that I have to know the trout are frequenting a shallow flat in decent numbers before I am willing to limit my ability to cover a lot of water.
The fish also have to be holding in water that is no deeper than the top of my waders and they are just now starting to consistently hunt their next meal in water less than waist deep.
Pre-dawn wades in shorts and wading boots in the spring and late summer are far more comfortable, but wading in water cold enough to quickly turn a minor mishap into a disaster requires more than grabbing a rod and reel and climbing over the side of the boat. Prior to ever making that first cast, safety should be your number one concern.
Securely anchoring a perfectly dry boat that you are about to leave sounds like a no-brainer, but more than one anchor and even a few power poles will work their way free again this year. Watching your boat drift away, more especially if it is drifting toward the open lake, can be a tad stressful. I have experienced that twice and it will not happen again!
At least as far as I am concerned, the second most important thing when wading during the winter is to never fish alone. Provided you were wise enough to pack at least one change of dry clothes, you can trip and completely fill your waders with little consequence other than a higher pitched voice if you have a friend or friends to help you get back to the boat. Should you be alone and hypothermia sets in before you can reach the boat, however, you are in a world of trouble.
Regardless of how much money I have invested in a quality pair of waders, I never leave the dock without an extra pair. I am obligated to include extra everything when hosting clients, but do not think for one minute that the best of waders can’t develop a leak between trips. I have never owned a pair of waders that a jagged tow head or submerged piece of dead wood cannot penetrate.
I carry the thicker neoprene waders for really cold days, but I prefer to dress in layers and wear the thinner breathables whenever possible. They are much easier to get on and off and afford you far more freedom of movement.
I think I have fished every brand available, with the exception of Simms, and I have been very pleased with the durability of my Gulf Coast breathables. At less than a hundred bucks a pair they have exceeded all expectations thus far. Simms are considerably more expensive, but also a solid investment if you are buying them for yourself. In my case, I never know who will be borrowing a pair of my waders on any given day.
The clothing you wear beneath your waders and waterproof wading jacket is no less important. More is not necessarily better as you do not want to restrict circulation. Thinner materials like those found in Under Armour’s Cold Gear tops and bottoms are exceptionally warm and leave more room for a fleece jacket or even a wool sweater depending on how cold is too cold!
Should you opt to stay in the boat and drift fish for your next trophy trout, waterproof non-slip footwear and a quality rain suit are must have items. There is no substitute for rain wear that not only keeps you dry, but adequately deflects a howling wind as well.
I have fallen in love with my Frogg Togg Toad Skinz and I have only worn them in a hard rain one time thanks to the never ending drought. While it is important to note that they kept me extremely dry, they have done an even better job of keeping me warm.
I have left the dock wearing mine almost every morning for the past month to ward off the bite of that first frosty boat ride. These new suits were designed with the fisherman in mind as they not only fit well over bulkier clothing, but also include easily accessed Velcro fastened waterproof pockets on both the jacket and the pants.
The material is thicker than that found in the popular light weight Classic suit, but is still incredibly light to be so warm. I knew when Gene Locke and Bob Crew gave their new Toad Skinz suits a “thumbs up” that they had survived the ultimate battery of tests.
Locke’s final assessment was short but on the money when he informed three other fishermen that were already wearing Toad Skinz, “These things are the real deal”!